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PUBLIC HEARINGS

ANC accused of disrupting public hearings on Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill

ANC accused of disrupting public hearings on Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill
A public hearing on the Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill takes place in Worcester. (Photo: @WCProvParlX)

The Western Cape Legislature’s hearings on the new Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill have been marked by accusations of ANC disruptions and counter-claims of DA bias. Much of it has to do with politicking ahead of this year’s elections.

One day into public hearings for the Western Cape Legislature’s Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill, the hearings have turned into a back-and-forth between the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the African National Congress (ANC) over disruptions.

The bill seeks to assign or delegate further powers to the province, but opposition parties have labelled it “an embarrassing document purporting to be serious legislation” and “an attempt to undermine the constitutional principles of building a united, non-sexist, non-racial, democratic and prosperous society”.

Delegation of powers

The bill was tabled in the legislature in mid-2023 by DA member Christopher Fry. It aims to “identify and remedy the failures of the national government through the assertion of the Western Cape’s provincial powers and the powers of local authorities located in the Western Cape”.

If enacted into law, it would “actively seek the assignment or delegation of further powers to the Western Cape in all areas of provincial and local autonomy”.

The province intends to assert its existing provincial and local powers to seek the delegation or assignment of powers in the following areas:

  • Policing, including but not limited to the powers identified in Schedule 4A of the Constitution;
  • Public transport, including municipal public transport;
  • Energy, including electricity generation, transmission and reticulation;
  • Trade, including international trade;
  • Harbours, including national harbours.

Explaining the bill, Fry said it was motivated by “a recognition that, both inside and outside of the Western Cape’s constitutional competence, the National Government is unable or unwilling to act in the best interests of the residents of the Western Cape”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Unlike secession, devolution of some powers to Western Cape is constitutionally possible

If passed, Fry said at the time, the bill would play “an important role” in ensuring that the province asserted existing power or sought additional powers in the above areas.

“The DA remains committed to the devolution of national powers to capable provinces in order to bring quality service delivery and good governance to communities,” Fry said.

In 2019, one of the DA’s main campaign priorities was the devolution of policing and rail powers to the provinces.

This has been a sticking point between the party and members of the national government, leading to public spats between DA Cape Town metro chair JP Smith and Police Minister Bheki Cele.

Calls for legal opinion

The bill was deliberated formally on 9 June. By 20 July, the provincial legislature voted to establish an ad hoc committee on the Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill. This committee consists of 10 members, the majority from the DA which controls the legislature.

Public comment on the bill closed on 7 August 2023.

During a meeting of the ad hoc committee on 16 August, provincial legislature legal adviser advocate Romeo Maasdorp was reported by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) as saying that, in his observation of previous bills tabled in the legislature, this was the first bill that was based on “spurious generalisations” without backing in terms of the bill.

PMG said Maasdorp deemed the premise of the bill to be “founded on politically loaded statements” as well as being unfounded and unresearched”. He also proposed to further engage the committee after a public participation process and cautioned that his observations were preliminary.

In the same meeting, it was decided to seek legal opinion on the bill.

At another committee meeting on 24 November to discuss the way forward, the PMG reported that the ANC’s Patrick Marran objected to a public hearing process before having the bill’s legality issues resolved.

Marran said going into a public hearing process would be a waste of expenditure before seeking a legal opinion. This was seconded by Peter Marais from the Freedom Front Plus.

Majority vote in favour

However, when the matter came to a vote, the DA members of the committee voted in favour of the public participation process while the ANC members and Marais voted against the proposal. With the majority vote secured, the public participation process was planned.

Public hearings have been taking place since 29 January and conclude on 2 February.

Ahead of the hearings, the ANC said it would mobilise its alliance partners, the South African Communist Party, Cosatu and the South African National Civic Organisation to deploy members to the hearings to voice their opposition to the bill.

In a statement ahead of the hearings, the alliance labelled the bill as “nothing but an attempt to undermine the constitutional principles of building a united, non-sexist, non-racial, democratic and prosperous society”.

Joining opposition to the bill is the Good party, whose legislature member Peter de Villiers described the bill as “an embarrassing document purporting to be serious legislation… The bill is a government-sponsored manifesto for the DA and is unashamedly unconstitutional”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: DA pushes for devolution in Western Cape before next year’s poll

Worcester hearing – claims and counterclaims

When the first public hearing took place on 29 January in Worcester, the DA’s Isaac Sileku, chairperson of the committee, said while there was robust dialogue in favour of and against the bill, “a substantial number of ANC supporters sought to disrupt the proceedings.

“This included harassment of speakers who were voicing their support of the bill, intimidation and violent behaviour towards members of the committee, and threats of politically motivated violence.”

Sileku said the disruptions meant the hearing had to be adjourned a few minutes ahead of schedule.

In response, the ANC’s Pat Marran told Daily Maverick: “The ANC rejects allegations that members have disrupted the public hearing… Yes, it is true that the ANC has mobilised its members to attend, but [only] to oppose the bill.”

He said video footage and images would show ANC members and supporters peacefully making submissions to reject the bill.

“Participants clearly raised their dissatisfaction with timekeeper, member Fry, who is not part of the ad hoc committee but tasked with the timekeeping for speakers,” he added.

“Video footage of ANC supporters making submissions is clearly visible. What causes a bit of chaos at the end is when member Gillion Bosman grabbed the mic and adjourned the meeting, to the amazement [of] the meeting’s chairperson,” said Marran.

The public hearings will continue for the rest of the week, ending in the provincial legislature chambers in Cape Town on Friday, 2 February. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    In a statement ahead of the hearings, the alliance labelled the bill as “nothing but an attempt to undermine the constitutional principles of building a united, non-sexist, non-racial, democratic and prosperous society”.

    Nope sorry alliance, you’ve got it wrong. The truth is, the DA is pushing for this only because you are useless and they are aware that for our country to succeed for the benefit of everyone it needs grown ups with real skills running it.

    • Alan Watkins says:

      “nothing but an attempt to undermine the constitutional principles of building a united, non-sexist, non-racial, democratic and prosperous society””. I wonder if the ANC know the meaning of the word “irony”, or to use another expression, whether they can “read for meaning”. They repeatedly make statements such as this, seemingly firm in the belief that they are striving hard to achieve these ideals when , in reality, they have achieved NONE of them and likely never will. ANC read the words and consider their meaning
      united
      non-sexist
      non- racial
      democratic
      prosperous

  • Vincent Britz says:

    Has the ANC thugs ever looked at how many people are moving from ANC run province’s to the western cape??? No one can live under the corrupt ANC government and their departments, the ANC is nothing but a bunch of thieving gangster.

  • Taun Bewsher says:

    The ANC has nothing left to offer the country, or the Western Cape other than disruption and chaos. Further devolution of powers to competent local authorities only serves as further embarrasement to them, as it clearly highlights their failures at level of government.

  • Sliver Fox says:

    I agree with the ANC that the bill is an embarrassment, but not for the DA. This bill is an embarrassment to the ANC who have been utterly useless as a government. This has little to do with politics, and everything with governance, which is a concept the ANC simply can’t grasp. The WC would not be pushing for devolution of power if the national government were actually doing the job tax payers are paying them to do. So yes, very, very embarrassing for the ANC.

  • Denise Smit says:

    ANC clearly using disruptive tactics in the words of ANC. They try to sabotage everything that happens in the Western Cape. But they can not help it , they can not do anything constructive anywhere else in the country. Have not learnt to build anything, can still only destroy or break down things

  • Wayne Holt says:

    Isn’t devolution of power the ultimate form of democracy and inherently and absolutely in line with our constitution… so ANC who is anti democracy???

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